Educating [Geeks] Does Fan Fest 2014
2014 is coming to a close, and the folks at Phoenix Comicon decided to provide geeks everywhere with one last way to geek out. They called it Fan Fest and it invaded the University of Phoenix Stadium December 12-14, 2014. This particular event was intended to focus on specific genres: comic books, costuming, kids, and actors. When this event was announced in early October, I noticed that the responses to the event were either “huh? wha? that’s weird” or “OMG! PANIC!”. I found myself falling into the confusion category, a bit wary of yet another Con in Arizona. But seeing as Executive Producer Alice reminds us to “Be an Optimist Prime, Not a Negatron” and that it would be nice for the cosplayers and vendors to not be dealing with 100+ degree heat, I decided that this could be a really great idea!
Unfortunately, sometimes the best laid plans often go awry. Or lead to doctor’s offices. In the weeks leading up to Fan Fest, I found myself mysteriously ill (my husband strongly believes that I was undergoing a mutation into a superhero. If this is the case, I’ll be sure to keep everyone in the loop. But I have my doubts). Thankfully, some amazing new Educating Geeks staff members were there to help provide coverage and additional perspectives on the event – production assistant Diana attended Friday and Saturday and geek host Krissy attended as an exhibitor/vendor!
Diana, planned her 2 days at Fan Fest out in in advance. Seeing as Phoenix Comicon 2014 this past June was her first Con experience, the young padawan is learning fast! However, with only 2 panel rooms, one for Spotlight Guest panels and the other for a scarce few additional panels, it wasn’t too difficult to schedule your time. Diana recalls going back and forth from the front to the back of the exhibitor area (as directed by staff), looking for the second panel room called the Fiesta Bowl Conference Room. Since there were no signs directing people, it was no surprise that she experienced a bit of frustration looking for the room. Thankfully, a staff member finally showed her how to get there – through a dark hallway which only identified Restrooms and an Emergency Exit. While difficult to find, and scarcely attended, Diana said she really enjoyed the panels “Sci Fi Would You Rather” hosted by 3 Drunk Geeks and “Who Said It?” hosted by Karen Wegryn. Saturday came with directional improvements – Diana and I recall seeing signs now posted directing attendees to the panel rooms! Yay for improvements!
If you have ever been to Phoenix Comicon, you’d recognize many of the vendors at Fan Fest. Favorites such as Jeff Pina with Sideways 8 Studios was on hand and even eluded to a Dr. Oblivion and Imaginatives crossover in 2015!
Familiar faces and hosts of Phoenix Comicon’s Geek Prom, Kids Need to Read, now sponsored by Barnes and Noble, were present! They brought with them a Geek Santa for the kids, who was giving copies of Hightlights magazines to good geek girls and boys. Local vendors Corey Blecha with Anime Couture, Heather Reese-Hoffs with Cats Eye Curiosities, Larkin McBath with Felicia’s Fine Crafts and Sarah Wilbur with Geek Asylum were a few local ladies working their products at Fan Fest. Our special friends, Very Awesome Girls into Nerdy Activities were also there with their handmade crafts. As a plus, FanFest had lower attendance, so shopping was much more peaceful! Being able to interact with the vendors and artists without fear of being wisked down river (like at Phoenix Comicon) provided an enjoyable element to browsing the vendor booths. This was definitely a vendor focused convention, but with table prices the same as for Phoenix Comicon and attendance lower, some vendors found it difficult to justify the expense. Many are hopeful that this issue to be resolved as the event grows and returns in following years.
One major downfall for vendors and attendees alike was the food. The only food available in the stadium was from a hot dog, hamburger, pretzel vendor in the exhibitor hall. A couple of food trucks were stationed outside, but this food couldn’t be brought into the stadium. Saturday’s little little drizzle made eating outside unappealing to most attendees.
Overall, this event succeeded in its goal – to host a mini comicon with a narrow focus, during cooler weather. For those of you who do not like attending non-Spotlight panels, hate the heat and crowds, and need last-minute holiday geek gifts, Fan Fest is a perfect fit for you! Be sure to be on the look out for the second annual Fan Fest, in winter of 2015.